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     We flew on a north-westerly heading over the Alberta foothills, deep into the vastness of the Canadian Rockies.  Our destination was a coastal Nuu-chaw-nulth native village on Nootka Island that is located in a remote area north of Tofino, Canada’s surfing capital on Vancouver Island.

     The plan was to hop from Calgary to Vancouver to Tofino, and then board a helicopter for the final 85 kilometer flight north to our destination.  There we would be met by an aboriginal guide who would take us on a multi-day off the grid wilderness experience, including fishing for Pacific salmon.

     For my two companions and me this was our annual September getaway, an exciting follow-up to last year’s adventure at the Torngat Mountains Base Camp in northern Labrador.  There we had slept in yurts and hiked the rugged landscape seeking glimpses of elusive wolves and polar bears.

     Today’s journey had begun in Toronto when we boarded an early morning Air Canada flight to Calgary.  Rather than fly all the way to Vancouver with AC, one of my friends had suggested that it would be exciting to fly over the Rockies in a smaller aircraft, to get a close-up view of the beautiful mountain terrain.  Later, after a brief pit stop in Vancouver, we would fly across the Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island and continue to Tofino on the Pacific coast.  A helicopter would be waiting there to carry us further north. 

     My name is Rowan Baxter and I toil for a well-known investment house along with my two best friends and traveling companions Brad and Dave.  For the past several years the three of us have embarked on a different adventure trip each fall, designed to relieve the crushing boredom of our corporate lives.  In reality, each of us loves camping and the outdoors and looks forward with anticipation to a new extreme adventure each year.  We are all in our 40’s, physically fit and financially able.

     At the Calgary Airport we were directed to a hanger way out in the back-forty where we were greeted by our pilot.  Jerry Mueller was a grizzled veteran wearing a beat up officer’s cap, who immediately reminded me of an older version of the jocular Col Robert E. Hogan from the 1960’s TV sitcom Hogan’s Heroes.  Friendly and engaging, Captain Jerry took us on a brief walk-around to examine his pride and joy, a vintage Cessna 310 twin-engine turboprop that we would be flying in.  Satisfied that all was in order, he showed us where to stow our gear and invited us to climb aboard.

     Unbeknownst to us and undisclosed by our pilot, there was a severe weather alert for the area along our flight path.  In hindsight, I think that Jerry needed the fat fee we were paying him and didn’t want to cancel.  The sun shone as we lifted off, but soon dark clouds were in evidence and the sky turned a dangerous hue.  About 30 minutes into the flight there was a huge clap of thunder and then lightning lit up the cabin like a Japanese lantern.  Just for a moment my life flashed before my eyes.  Sitting in the front seat opposite to the pilot, Dave turned to Brad and me with a terrified what the hell look on his face.

     Captain Jerry muttered something about changing course to avoid the storm.  Ten minutes later he was repeating “Bravo-Foxtrot-Zulu” into the radio handset, but wasn’t getting any response.  And then the portside engine cut out.  The noise in the cabin immediately diminished as the aircraft yawed in the direction of the disabled engine.  The pilot quickly jerked the controls and brought the plane to straight-and-level as Brad and I both simultaneously cried out “Jesus Christ!” 

     Minutes later our stressed out pilot grabbed his chest and slammed back against the headrest.  The aircraft immediately spun out of control and slipped into a dive.  Dave screamed and tried to grab the controls, but the Cessna entered a spin and began to auger in towards the earth below.  For the next few brief seconds it felt like a horrifying out-of-control roller coaster ride.  And then darkness.


     When I slowly regained consciousness, I had no clue as to where I was or what had happened.  I felt numb all over and when I opened my eyes there was total darkness.  The first thing I was really aware of was a cold rain on my face, which I later determined was entering through a gaping hole in the roof of the cabin.  I was still strapped into my seat, but it seemed to be positioned at a strange angle.  I let out an anguished moan and began to take an inventory of my arms and legs.  Everything seemed to be in working order, but I think I had whip-lash and my head hurt like hell!

     As I became more aware of the situation, I tried to recall what had happened.  All I could remember was a horrifying descent and then lights out.  So where were my friends?  All I could see around me were dark images.  It must be nighttime.  I weakly called out “Hey Brad, Dave where are you?” At first there was no response, and then I heard a groan somewhere to the right of me. I said “Brad, is that you?” Another groan, and then Brad croaked “What happened, man?”

     I must have drifted off and when I opened my eyes again there was a pale light filtering through the cabin.  It was then that I could appreciate the magnitude of destruction around me.  Looking to my right, I observed that Brad was either sleeping or unconscious.  Otherwise, he seemed unscathed.  The front of the aircraft however was totally caved in and my friend Dave and the pilot were crushed amidst the debris.  There was a lot of blood and no movement and I was almost certain that neither of them had survived.

     Dead men don’t talk so we’ll never know what really happened during the final seconds of our flight.  Did Dave grab the controls and miraculously pull us out of the spin?  Not likely.  Did the pilot rally briefly and make a heroic effort to save us?  Maybe.  All we know for sure is that something changed the trajectory of our descent, mitigating the worst possible result.  You might call it a miracle.  But, not for the two men up front.

     By then the rain had stopped, but even so, I was soaked to the skin and the cold breeze blowing through the cracked superstructure was causing me to shiver uncontrollably.  My head still pounded as I was thinking that the crash didn’t kill me, but I’m about to fall victim to hypothermia.  Struggling to release my seat belt, I found the blasted thing was jammed and prevented my escape.

     I called out to Brad and found that he was now responsive and had already unhooked his own belt.  I explained my dilemma and seconds later he hovered over me and cut my straps with his jackknife.  Neither of us had worn jackets during the flight and we were both freezing cold.  I crawled to the back of the aircraft where our rucksacks were secured beneath a netting in a space where the two rear seats had been removed.  I shifted the packs forward to Brad who tossed them out and then he disappeared through the same gaping hole.

     I followed closely behind and choked up briefly as I squeezed past the battered body of our friend Dave.  I didn’t know how I would ever explain this to his pregnant wife.  The whole thing was surreal!  I stepped out into a rocky moonscape where our aircraft had come to rest, and could see immediately that the crash site was unstable.

     Seeking relief from the wind and cold, I retrieved a rain jacket from my rucksack and fished in one of the outer pockets for a small flask of spirits.  Then, I joined Brad to survey the situation.  The first thing we established was there was no cell service.  Zero!  No bars!  Secondly, as we gazed down the mountain to a distant valley, there were no obvious signs of civilization.  As we pondered this, the wreckage of the plane containing Dave and Jerry slid from its perch, crested the edge of a deep ravine and disappeared from sight.


     ‘Fly the Friendly Skies’ was the motto of a well-known American airline.  But, it wasn’t Captain Jerry Muellers’s.  The final flight of his Cessna 310 lasted a brief four seconds and ended with a hard landing!  Brad and I were on our hands and knees looking over into the abyss at the crushed remains of Jerry’s airplane.  We were thankful that we had missed the flight, but horrified by the thought that our friend Dave was still strapped in his seat amidst the wreckage.

     Positioned as it was within a deep revine, the wreck would be difficult to spot from the air (if, or) when a search and rescue operation was mounted.  We hoped that the aircraft had some sort of emergency homing device, because Jerry had been out of radio contact for quite some time before we went down, and had strayed considerably off course navigating around the storm.  Hopefully he had filed a proper flight plan.

     The advice given in most survival manuals would be to stay near the crash site.  But, perched on this mountainside it didn’t seem like a sensible option.  With an overcast sky and steady wind, I estimated the temperature to be about 2 degrees Celsius. And with the wind chill, who knows? Wearing shorts and light rain jackets, we were already wet from last night’s rain and it was feeling as if more rain was on the way.  It could even snow at this elevation.  With no obvious place to take shelter, it was pretty clear that we had to descend into the valley.

     We scoped out the terrain and estimated that we were about 600 meters above the valley floor.  The valley itself was about five kilometers in length and was bordered on both sides by rugged mountains.  It was densely wooded and had a fast flowing river running through it.  Under different circumstances I would have described the setting as idyllic.   But, from where we stood there was no obvious route to getting there, and it was scary-steep.  It was going to be a knee-busting descent for Brad and myself, each of us burdened with a 16 kilo rucksack.  After a brief hesitation, we summoned up our courage and went over the top.

     The descent was an experience that might have given pause to a mountain goat.  We considered roping ourselves together, but decided against it because without proper equipment, should one of us slip, it would simply result in both of us taking the express route to the bottom.  We carefully poked along from one hand or foothold to the next, and on a couple of occasions came to a dead-end and had to retrace our steps.   In one section there was a washed out ledge that required a step-across that was just beyond my reach, especially when balancing a heavy rucksack.  Frustrated, I muttered “whose idea was this?” Brad, who is longer of leg, stretched across the gap and offered me his hand.  Even with his help I wobbled unsteadily and almost took flight.  When we reached the tree line it was much easier going.  Finally, after weaving through a thick growth of lodge pole pines we crossed a gravelly flood plain and came to the river.

     We took out our water bottles, filled them with ice cold water and gulped it back.  Other than a few jolts of whiskey, this was the first liquid I had swallowed in over 24 hours.  Ordinarily, we make a point of filtering all water, regardless of the source.  That’s because even though water may appear pristine, you never know what contaminants such as dead fish or animal feces might originate up stream.  But, hey!  After surviving an airplane crash we were prepared to live a little dangerously.  After rehydrating, we walked along the river bank looking for a location to establish a temporary camp.

     It almost sounds too good to be true, but we had all the equipment needed to set up a comfortable camp.  This was because we had packed for the wilderness experience on Nootka Island and had brought along everything we would need, except for food, which was to be provided by our guide.  Unfortunately, the only food items we carried were the requisite trail mix and a few energy bars.  But it was better than nothing.  I also had two pints of whiskey and a supply of cigars to help keep my spirits up.  After a short hike we found a likely location in a sheltering grove of pines, about 70 meters from the river.  I immediately went to work erecting our tent while Brad strung up a tarp that we could shelter under when the rain came.


     Ferris Hagman used binoculars to track the two figures who were inching down the mountain on the far side of the valley.  He couldn’t identify who they were, or if they might be law enforcement.   But, he knew their presence meant trouble.  Yesterday there had been a loud unidentifiable noise during the storm which he had written off as a rock slide.  Hmm?  And now this unwelcome intrusion.  Who the hell were they, he wondered?  And what kind of loons would make that steep descent humping large packs?  It was going to be a problem for sure!  But, he knew how to deal with problems.

     He stroked his beard and snarled at the two men behind him “get back to work!” The men were a couple of retreads from a small interior community who were more interested in smoking pot than completing the job at hand.  They had been scraping flesh from a giant bear skin that was stretched on a wooden rack, supported between two trees.  The animal, a 250 kilogram male grizzly had been shot by Hagman a few days earlier.  Its bloody carcass lay a couple of ‘clicks’ up the valley where it had been left to rot.  They had skinned it on the spot and then struggled to carry the heavy hide back to camp.  The men sucked in a final lungful of weed and begrudgingly resumed their work.

     Ferris Hagman was a poacher who hunted this valley and several other unpopulated areas in the wild interior of British Columbia.  His current focus was grizzlies whose skins were in big demand with Chinese buyers.  Big demand meant big dollars, which was music to his ears.  Once Hagman had done the initial prep work on a recent kill, he quickly transported the hide to a taxidermist in Vancouver who finished the job.  The final product would be a magnificent fur complete with paws, preserved head and snarling jaws.  It would be a great conversation piece for the wealthy buyer.

     Hagman was an ex-army ranger and expert rifleman.  With his .30-06 Springfield rifle he had bagged every kind of four-legged trophy animal in North America; not to mention a few who walked on two legs.  For him, it was all about the money, and at $10,000 a pop, heaven help anyone who got in his way.  The two intruders across the river demanded serious investigation.  He decided to set out at first light.

     A few weeks prior, Hagman had a run-in with a Conservation Officer who wanted to ticket him for hunting without a licence.  When he threatened the Officer, the man backed off and mounted his horse.  Moments later, at 300 meters he shot the Officer, who slumped in the saddle, then somehow managed to escape.  He tracked the man for hours, but was unable to find any trace of him.  For the next few days he sweated about the possible consequences, but nothing happened.  It was likely the man had just crawled into the bush and died.  And just maybe, the two unknown intruders were searching for him.

     Next morning Hagman removed his boots and trousers and carefully waded across the river.  He smelled smoke in the air and thought that the men might have a camp nearby.  The previous night he had told the two clowns working for him that they were on a combat footing, and warned that there could be no fire or light that could give their position away.  At dawn he had darkened his face with camouflage paint, slipped on his shoulder holster and quit the camp.

     When he was within hailing distance of the intruders’ fire he slipped stealthily through the pines and approached without making a sound.  He noted the smouldering fire, but there was no movement or voices that would indicate a human presence.  Had they heard him comingWas the hunter now being hunted?  He entered the encampment with his .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum in hand and was shocked to see a tent that was torn to shreds, and clothing scattered all around.  The two men were nowhere to be seen.


     Brad and I sat by a blazing fire discussing the events of the past 36 hours.  Dinner that evening had been limited to a handful of trail mix and now we puffed on cigars, sipping post prandial whiskey from a bottle that we passed back and forth.  Earlier we had observed turkey vultures circling in the area where Captain Jerry’s Cessna had come to rest.  It was grim, thinking that our friend Dave was now a menu item.  But, there was no way that we could recover the body.  It would have to wait until we were rescued.  So much for the edict ‘leave no man behind.

     Ordinarily, we carried a satellite phone on our adventure trips.  This time the guide said not to bother, he had it covered.  So, with no sat phone and no cell signal we had no way to communicate with the outside world.  We didn’t have a clue where we were; somewhere in the wilds of central British Columbia we surmised.  Our blazing campfire was the only way we could attempt to attract attention, short of sending smoke signals.

     We decided to hang around camp the following day and see what developed.  If there was no rescue by then, we would strike out and seek help.  But, in what direction?  Although we had no compass, we knew that the sun rose in the east and set in the west.  That was just useless information when the only logical path was to follow the river downstream to see where it led.  We certainly weren’t going to climb the steep mountains on either side of the valley.  We knew that leaving the area of the crash site defied survival protocol, but we’d worry about that tomorrow.

     At dusk the mosquitoes were getting pesky, so we retreated to the sanctuary of our tent.  It had just started raining slightly, so we pulled the rucksacks in with us.  Usually we would have strung our food up into a tree, but with just a small bag of trail mix on offer, it didn’t seem worth the effort.  We had already spread out the sleeping bags, so we stripped down to our underwear and crawled in.  After a few minutes of desultory conversation, I blew out the candle, and we lay there listening to the chorus of the crickets.

     Sometime during the night I woke to the sound of heavy rain drumming on the fly above our tent.  I don’t think there is anything more comforting that listening to the rain while snuggled in a warm sleeping bag.  I drifted back to sleep and was awakened some time later by a different sound.  The rain seemed to have stopped, and now I heard a huffing and groaning sound, followed by a growl and an eerie high pitched roar.  Suddenly the tent shook and the area over the front entrance was clawed to ribbons.  What the hell!  

     Brad screamed “bear” and I grabbed the knife attached to the side of my pack, slashed a slit in the rear wall of the tent and dove through.  Brad followed close behind.  We had always joked that the best protection in a bear attack is ‘don’t be the slowest runner!’  In this instance, Brad was a step behind and a huge grizzly instantly had him in its grip, frenetically biting and ripping with its monstrous claws.  I stopped briefly, but there was nothing I could do.  In terror, I turned and kept running.  I ran until the sounds of horror behind me faded, until I finally collapsed.

     An hour later, in the false dawn, I shivered uncontrollably, clothed in nothing but my jockey shorts.  It was cold and the rain was falling again.  Cautiously, I crept back towards our camp, hoping that somehow my best friend had escaped the wrath of the bear.  The guilt I felt over leaving him weighted heavily as I approached the scene of horror. I found Brad’s body partially buried in a clawed out hollow, covered with the detritus from the pine trees.  As I choked back my tears, a spectre like form advanced from across the clearing and fired a pistol.


     I felt a searing pain in my arm and before I could fully process what was happening, instinct kicked in and I turned and ran.  Behind me there were two more sharp reports, and then, of all the crazy thoughts that might have gone through my mind, I thought of the famous Churchill quote:  ‘Nothing in life is more exhilarating than being shot at without result.’  I continued running as fast as I could on bare feet that felt like chopped liver.  Who the hell was this guy?  What on earth was happening?

     Initially the shooter was in hot pursuit, but I managed to lengthen the distance between us as I threaded my way through the forest.  Finally, exhausted, I crawled into a thick growth of foliage and lay flat, hoping I was sufficiently well concealed that he might pass me by.  Moments later, as I peeked between the bushes, a hard looking man approached searching urgently for me.  He was wearing combat fatigues and carried a serious looking handgun.  His scowling face was covered with a thick beard and a battered field hat was pulled low over his forehead.  I thought that he looked like someone’s worst nightmare!

     In spite of the cold rain, I lay in the bushes without moving for a least an hour.  Then I carefully stood up, and decided to take a roundabout route back to our camp.  I was freezing cold and my hope was to retrieve some remnants of clothing there.  Also, I needed something to wrap the nasty gash on my shoulder, where the shooter had winged me.  At one point, I waded across the river and approached stealthily through the trees to a point opposite to where our tent had stood.  I looked across and couldn’t believe my eyes!  The nutcase with the gun had a huge fire burning, and he was tossing in every last piece of our clothing and equipment, right down to our boots.

     Finally, the shooter poked at the coals with a stick.  Apparently satisfied, he took one last look around and then headed down river.  I decided that the wisest move for me would be to go in the opposite direction.  As I walked gingerly on lacerated feet, I noticed a fair bit of fresh bear scat.  Nice!  That’s all I needed; to meet up with last night’s marauding grizzly.  And me, practically naked, and dripping blood.  Half an hour later the sky cleared and the sun beamed down, giving me some relief.  It was then I heard the strangest sound.

     It sounded like a horse’s whinny.  Could it be?  I walked in the direction of the sound and spotted a horse munching grass alongside the river.  It was saddled, but there was no rider in evidence.  As I approached the animal, I almost tripped over the ravaged body of a man lying face up in the weeds.  It was a shocking sight, as he appeared to have been dead for quite some time.  The man was some kind of Park Ranger.  He had a badge and was wearing soft-body armour which hadn’t protected him from the gunshot wound that had killed him.  It was too unreal!  I was beginning to feel like I had landed in the middle of some weird version of ‘The Hunger Games.’

     I approached the skittish horse and managed to grab hold of the reins.  The animal resisted at first, but I managed to lead it to a nearby sapling where I tied it securely.  I pulled a .308 Winchester semi-automatic rifle from the saddle scabbard and thought to myself, this is a game changer!  Secured behind the saddle was a bed roll wrapped in a waterproof poncho as well as a warm looking jacket.  In the saddlebags, I found a small supply of food items, including an energy bar which I unwrapped without hesitation.

     I had never removed the boots from a dead man before.  It wasn’t much fun with flies buzzing all around, and although the boots were a size too big, I slipped them on my battered feet and laced them up.  Riding a horse would simply make me an easy target, so I unbuckled the cinch, removed the saddle and halter, and set the horse free.  My next move was to find a secure place to hole up for the night.  Tomorrow, I would stop running and take the initiative.


     I found a likely spot on the mountain side just below the tree line.  Nestled in a rocky depression I was protected from the wind and with the dead man’s coat and poncho I would be warm and dry in the event of rain. Most Importantly, I had a good field of vision and would have ample warning if someone tried to approach.  Using a tree branch, I swept away any sign of footprints leading to my retreat.  Under the circumstances, I didn’t intend to sleep and would remain on guard throughout the night.  The Winchester rifle was a little rusty, but I checked it thoroughly and was satisfied that it was in good working order.  The magazine was fully loaded with 10 rounds of ammo.

     As the sun slipped behind the mountain, I buttoned up my new jacket and wrapped the poncho around my bare legs.  Earlier I had cut a strip from the dead man’s bedroll and wrapped it around my wounded arm.  It hurt like hell, but I figured the pain would help keep me awake.  As I brushed away hungry mosquitoes, my thoughts turned to my friends, Dave and Brad.  Poor Dave was now feeding the birds, while Brad was being tenderized in a shallow grave awaiting a hungry bear’s return.  I teared up thinking about them until my sorrow turned to a burning anger.

     I couldn’t figure out why the wacko with the pistol took a shot at me.  I also wondered, if he had murdered the man with the badge.  And unprovoked, why had the grizzly attacked our tent in such a rage?  It was all very confusing.  I assumed that the man tracking me had some kind of military background.  But, he wasn’t the only one.  In my younger years I had served with the regular army, and was well versed in the use of firearms and infantry tactics.  So now, having possession of the Winchester rifle, the playing field had shifted.

     It was still dark when I emerged from my lair, and descended to the valley floor.  In the cool of the morning, I was warm enough in my jacket, but I was still naked from boot tops to jockey shorts.  The tall grass was wet as I cautiously made my way along the river bank, rifle at the ready.  The sun was rising over the mountain top when I observed smoke, and then the tantalizing smell of bacon cooking.  For the next hour, I slowly crept up on the camp, to a position where I could surreptitiously observe the goings on.  I could see two men sitting around a fire in a clearing that featured a large bearskin stretched on a rack.  There was no sign of the man who had pursued me.

     I walked into the camp holding my rifle muzzle down and shouted out a friendly greeting.  The two men jumped to their feet, and looked like they had just seen a ghost.  They were a rough looking pair with greasy hair, scruffy beards and glassy eyes.  Clearly, they were on some kind of substance.  Without any fanfare, one of them pulled a big knife and rushed towards me.  I pumped two slugs into him and his body flew back into the fire.  The other man dropped to his knees, raised his hands and screamed “don’t shoot me, please don’t shoot me!” He started blubbering, and over the next few minutes told me the whole sordid story.

     Their boss’s name was Ferris Hagman, who claimed exclusive domain over this valley.  He was poaching grizzles and selling the hides in Vancouver for big bucks.  Hagman had hired him and his friend to do the skinning.  Two weeks ago he had shot a Conservation Officer and was worried when two strangers showed up, probably searching for him.  Hagman had gone to check out the men’s camp, but a grizzly had beat him there and killed one of the men.  He had fired shots at the other man and chased him into the woods.  Hagman had just left camp an hour ago to continue searching for him.  The man mentioned that the grizzly was probably acting crazy because Hagman had wounded it recently with a poorly placed rifle shot.

     Guilty by association I thought as the man continued to blubber and grovel.  But, I couldn’t just shoot him.  I told him to skedaddle and don’t look back.  Then worried that the shots would bring Hagman running, I grabbed a jerry can of gasoline and quickly went about destroying the camp.  I splashed gas over the contents of two tents and set them ablaze.  Then I soaked the bear skin and did the same. I also took an axe and smashed a portable generator and a short wave radio.

     I left, and hiked to the near end of the valley, and discovered a rough trail that seemed to lead up over a saddle to the next valley.  ‘It must be Hagman’s highway out of here.’  Scouting around, I discovered an all-terrain quad bike under a tarp, camouflaged with pine boughs.  This was obviously his principle means of transportation.  For a brief moment I considered my escape, but I didn’t have a key to get the damn thing started.  So I picked up a good sized rock and smashed the controls, totally immobilizing the vehicle.  Ferris Hagman was in for a big surprise when he returned; that is, if I didn’t find him first.


     Hagman had returned to his camp the previous evening, and then left again at first light, to continue searching for the naked man.  He was pretty sure he had nicked him with his pistol, but the man had run off like a jack rabbit and somehow eluded him.  Afterwards, when he visited their ravaged campsite, he had found nothing in the scattered gear to suggest they were law enforcement.  Also importantly, there were no weapons.  But, having shot at the man, he figured he’d better find him and finish the job.

     Meantime, he set about removing any trace of their existence.  He burned the remains of the tent and all of their clothing and equipment, including cell phones.  He intended to return with a shovel and bury the man who had been killed by the bear, as well as any plastic or metallic items that had survived the fire.

     Now, as the sun crested the eastern ridge, Hagman was moving stealthily through the trees looking for signs of his prey.  He found tracks that led to higher ground, but they ended abruptly.  Close examination showed that the man had tried to conceal his tracks with a tree branch.  He thought that was interesting.  When he found the man’s den, there was a discarded bit of bloodied cloth and a food wrapper.  He wondered, where did this stuff come from?  The last glimpse he had of the guy, he was practically buck naked.

     Back in the forest, Hagman heard a noise and quickly reached for his pistol.  Just then, two shots were fired that seemed to emanate from the direction of his camp.   He was moving towards the river when he saw a wandering horse and thought things are taking a really weird twist.

     When he returned to camp, he was appalled by the destruction.  Everything had been burned, including a duffle bag containing his cell phone, personal I.D. and a considerable hoard of cash.  He didn’t give a thought to the body of his employees, but was sick when he observed the burnt ruin of the bearskin.  He thought to himself, OK, I’m out of here.

     When he saw the shattered condition of his all-terrain quad bike, it was the final straw.  His ride was totally inoperable.  Now it would be a 20 kilometer hike to get to the closest logging road.  In a rage, he turned back towards the valley.  That’s when he almost walked into the grizzly bear.  His rifle was slung over his shoulder, so he quickly pulled his .357 pistol and fired.


     After trashing Hagman’s camp I removed and counted the bullets in my rifle’s magazine.  I reloaded and jacked one up the spout.  The weapon was a semi-automatic and would fire as quickly as I pulled the trigger, but only seven more times.  I decided to sweep the length of the valley, while slowly making my way amongst the trees rather than along the river bank where I’d be a sitting duck.  Hagman was out there, and I figured the first man to get off a shot would probably come out the winner.  It was then that I heard the sharp report of a pistol shot.  A second later, another shot rang out. 

      I advanced even more carefully now, wondering what the hell was going on?  An hour later, as I walked through some tall grass, I came face-to-face with a monstrous grizzly bear.  The creature bellowed and tried to rise up on its hind legs, but stumbled and seemed to become even more enraged.  With a shambling gate, but still at high speed it charged.  For a second my bowels felt weak, then I pointed the rifle and fired twice.  The grizzly collapsed and I fired a third time just for insurance.  I did a quick mental recap; four bullets remaining.

     I quickly moved away from the bear’s carcass and concealed myself in the undergrowth, waiting for Hagman to come and check out the commotion.  As much as I wanted to confront the man, I figured it would be safer to shoot first and ask questions later.  I waited for over an hour, but he never showed.  Perhaps he was playing the same game, waiting for me.  Finally, I left my hiding place and resumed the hunt.

     When I found him I got the surprise of my life.  His body was clawed to shreds!  He had obviously come out on the wrong end of an encounter with the same wounded grizzly that I had finished off.  Talk about poetic justice.

     Later that afternoon I heard the thump-thump-thump of a helicopter, which hovered over the crash site before veering towards the river where I stood waiving.  As I walked towards them in my jockey shorts, I must have looked a strange sight.  No doubt, the Mounties would have a lot of questions.

 I had quite a story to tell!

By Michael Barlett


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